Monday, 30 December 2013

Looking to finish 2013 on a high note.

That is what Trail Smoke Eaters head coach Nick Deschenes hopes will happen Monday night when they host the West Kelowna Warriors.

In their final contest of the calendar year, and returning from the nine day Christmas break, his club will look to do something they haven't done since November

Trail has dropped 12 straight games (the second time this season they've lost 10 or more consecutive outings) and sit 26 points back of a playoff spot.

Deschenes has admitted the focus has now shifted to next season, "We're getting close to the end of the year here, we have a two month segment [left], so we're trying to position our older players for opportunities [next year], as well as our younger players [who we want to] kind of put into roles where we can hopefully see them long term."

Deschenes explains they are looking to identify what players will be wearing the orange and black next season.

"The sooner we can start keying in on some players [and] establishing a relationship, it is just going to contribute to a quicker transition into next year."

Trail and West Kelowna have met twice this season, splitting the two previous matches.

The Smokies took the most recent contest, a 5-1 win in West Kelowna on November 2nd - Deschenes second game behind the bench for Trail.

"We need to come out of our shell," said Deschenes after I asked him what his team needs to do to be successful against West Kelowna again. "We need to play more aggressively, with more of an 'attack mentality'. At home or away, we are here now to maximize the next two months and we are here to give a maximum effort."

So the Smokies are not necessarily looking to finish 2013 with a bang, as much as steer the ship in the right direction for 2014(2015).

Coming into Monday's match the Warriors are 20-12-1-2 and with a road record of 10-4-1-2.

They sit one point back the third place Salmon Arm Silverbacks, and nine points behind the division leading Penticton Vees.

Meanwhile, the Smokies are 7-28-2-1 with just 3 wins at Cominco arena this season.

Watch the live broadcast at or listen for free at

Friday, 13 December 2013

A call out from the coach.

Head Coach Nick Deschenes is calling out his veterans.

"We have our youngest players being our best players. [Guys] that haven't even played in the BCHL before are out playing [others] that have been here for three years. Chances of success are not very good when that happens."

This as the orange and black have dropped eight straight games and continue a five game road trip in Vernon Friday night.

Five of those eight contests have finished by one or two goal decisions and Deschenes admits those close outcomes are starting to weigh on their psyche.

"We're trying to do our best to shift our focus a little bit, the past is the past, but with the same have to learn from the past."

In this losing stretch the Smokies were unsuccessful through a three game home stand.

In the case of all three of those games (and like most of the season) Trail just could not string together a full 60 minute effort.

It was the same case Wednesaday night when Trail kicked off their road trip in Penticton against the Vees.

The Smoke Eaters found themselves up 2-0 over the Interior Division's top team, but couldn't hold on and would allow the Vees to score three straight to steal the win.

Deschenes does admit there's a lot of new bodies in the dressing room and there isn't necessarily a lot of chemistry there right now.

"You can't really expect a team gelling [in that short of time], but the compete level, it's kind of scary if its not there. For players, where they wnat to be [and] where they are trying to be...the response is kind of disappointing."

Trail will wrap up the final four games of this road trip in Chilliwack on Saturday December 21st.

Then they will be off for the holiday break until the 30th when they host divisional rivals West Kelowna.

That will be my next broadcast and until then you can the games via the visitor's feed.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

So we meet again...

The Trail Smoke Eaters and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks clash for the sixth time this season Tuesday night.

Trail was only victorious in one of those previous meetings however, and if their luck wasn't hard enough, they are also trying to snap a sixth game losing streak.

Two of the losses in that stretch were at the hands of the Silverbacks, who have been defeated in regulation just three times in their last ten outings.

The'Backs are smack down in the middle of the Interior Division race with 37 points - tied with Merritt - that is only two more than fifth place West Kelowna and six back of second place Vernon.

Yet, S.A is still looking to rebound after losing in to the West K on Sunday.

The Smokies on the other hand are looking to finish a three game home stand with a win.

The two previous matches were one goal decisions that, in all respect, could have gone either way but didn't go Trail's.

Friday saw the Langely Rivermen visit the Silver City - a team that came in having won five of their last six.

Besides the first 30 seconds (that saw a sloppy play in the defensive end somehow get behind Dustin Nikkel) the orange and black competed with the Mainland Division's top team.

Saturday had the Merritt Centennials come into town - a team that has owned Trail at Cominco arena this season.

Through two previous meetings in that building, the Cents outscored the Smokies 11-1.

However, this time around Trail would strike first opening the scoring just over three and half minutes into the game.

They would hold the lead going into the third period but Merritt scored two unanswered in the final frame to steal the win.

"We're working hard but we got to watch out for the mental mistakes, " claimed forward Travis Stephens who had goals in both weekend outings and thinks the team is starting to turn a page, "We're improving as a team. We just need to keep battling in practice and getting better during the week."

Stephens also seems pretty positive about their chances against the 'Backs, "[We just have to] keep working hard [and] play as a team. I think that's a game we can win, they're coming into our barn, and I think it would be a good team game to win."

The club will also be holding their "Toonie Tuesday" promotion when they host the Silverbacks. Kids and students only pay $2 for admission while adults pay $5.

Game time is 7:30, the broadcast will start at 7:20. Watch the game live on or listen for free at

Friday, 6 December 2013

O Captain! My Captain!

The man who wears the "C" for the Trail Smoke Eaters is in a select group of players who started the 2013-2014 schedule with the club and still dawn the orange and black.

Adam Wheeldon has been the leader in the dressing room since the beginning of this tumultuous season and now a much younger, less experienced group will look to guys like him as Trail looks to move forward.

"Well, I just think you need to make sure everyone is focused and has the same mindset which is playing good as team and improving every single game," explained Wheeldon who thinks the changes will help with their goal. "It's not that hard when everyone is buying into it and we're bringing in a lot of guys that want to be here, so I think it'll be good".

The Smokies are heading into a weekend pair at Cominco Arena having dropped their last four outings.

Friday's match kicks off a three game home-stand before Trail spends the majority of December on the road.

After this the Smoke Eaters are only in the Silver City once more in 2013.

"It's always harder going on the road obviously, so every time you are at home you try to win but I think we have been playing really good hockey the last couple of games but they just haven't been going in our favor," claims Wheeldon. "Hopefully we turn it around this weekend."

On top of the busy week Nick Deschenes is coming off, the head coach also decided to release forward Riley Brandt earlier this week.

Brandt - a 16 year old native of Fruitvale -had one goal and six points in 26 games with the orange and black this season.

"Anyone who is of that age [and is], playing at this level [but] not playing in very many key situations...from a development stand-point... you just know if you're not playing you are not getting better," explained Deschenes who says the move was in the best interest of the player.

The coach hopes to work with Brandt in the off-season to get him on a plan to be BCHL ready for next season.

For now, Brandt will return to the Beaver Valley Nite Hawks of the KIJHL where he played 49 games last season.

"I'm excited to be back. The extra month of hockey and [a chance] at the playoffs. Last year was one of the funnest years of my life and I'm excited to join that again," he told me after admitting it was upsetting at first.

Focusing back on the weekend at hand, the Smokies have met the Langley Rivermen just once this season - a 4-3 overtime win in favor of Langley.

That was Friday September 6th at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack - needless to say a much different time for Trail.

They earned three out of a possible for points that weekend and Birk Birks' team stunned an entire league by picking up where they left off at the end of 2012-2013.

Now, where as Trail is at the bottom of the Interior Division,  Langley sits on top of the Mainland Division and holds a solid 10-5-0-1 road record.

There's is more history to season series between the Smokies and Merritt Centennials however.

The divisional foes have clashed three times already this season and Trail has not come out successful once.

They were close in their last meeting, a 5-4 loss in Merritt on October 20th but, in fact the orange and black have been outscored 16-5 by the Centennials.

Now, the title of this blog is taken from an 1865 poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln - but I'm more so aiming at the fact that forward Adam Wheeldon has been the constant through season that has seen a half roster overhaul and a change behind the bench already. 

"Obviously we are [now] going younger. It is the starting to become more of a rebuilding year. It's starting to get good. [Nick] is bringing in new faces which isn't always a bad thing, so we will see how it goes."

Yes we will.

Game times are 7:30PM.

Live broadcast starts at 7:20PM at

Monday, 2 December 2013

Smokies come out of weekend winless and younger.

The Trail Smoke Eaters were zero for three this past weekend.

They were swept in a home and home set with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks that started with a 5-3 loss in Trail Friday and ended in a 3-1 defeat Saturday.

Trail scored a minute and nine seconds into Friday's match but flirted with a one goal lead for too long and the 'Backs came out with a better third period. They opened the scoring at 16:48 and Trail answered back at 13:46.

The visitors then notched a powerplay goal to make it 4-3 just over four minutes later and followed with an empty netter with half a minute left in the game - sealing the deal.

The Smokies were able to find the back of the net in the second period Saturday, but ultimately couldn't generate much else in a 28 shot effort.

Trail then went on to being doubled up 6-3 in Vernon Sunday by a Vipers team that now sits on top of the claustrophobic Interior Division.

That was the fourth straight loss for the orange and black, a team that had almost more transactions in the week leading up than goals scored throughout the weekend.

Its roster has been altered drastically since head coach Nick Deschenes stared behind the bench just over a month ago.

Starting last Wednesday Deschenes' Smokies dealt 18 year old netminder Riley Corbin to the AJHL's Whitecourt Wolverines for future considerations.

Thursday, Trail sent 20 year old blueliner to Chilliwack for 18 year old forward Brandon Volpe and futures.

Friday saw the rights forward Michael Roberts go to Salmon Arm and forward Bryce Knapp shipped to the Cornwall Colts of the CCHL, both deals for future considerations.

And Saturday the Smokies sent 19 year old Valik Chichkin to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for the Ball Brothers, 19 year old Mitch and 18 year old Rylan from Powell River.

During that time, Trail also signed Castlegar native Riley Ostoforoff who started the 2013-2014 season with Alberni Valley after winning a KIJHL championship with his hometown Rebels last season.

They also got Colby Livingston of the KI's Creston Valley Thundercats to put pen to paper and join the orange and black.

When I asked Deschenes if the common theme of all these moves was to get younger he replied, "100%".

Which wasn't really a surprise.

But, I was surprised to the point he made after. "We are getting [guys] that want to play here."

This may not be the last winless weekend we see from the Smokies this season, but Deschenes is working to make sure it is the last effortless one.

Trail brings their four game skid into a pair of games at Cominco arena this coming weekend.

Home games are sparse for the Smokies in the month December as after this weekend they'll already have gone through half.

Puck drop on Friday's match with Langley goes at 7:30PM.